SD 124 board approves 4-year teacher contract
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com October 17, 2012 11:38PM
Joan Each Rowan addresses the Evergreen Park School District 124 Board on Wednesday, telling them how "mortified" she was by the board's behavior during the recent contract negotiations with striking teachers. The board approved the new contract after she left them with a stern "shame on you." | STEVE METSCH-SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:27PM
By a 6-1 vote Wednesday night, the Evergreen Park School District 124 Board approved a four-year contract with the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers, retroactive to July 1.
The teachers got larger pay raises than initially offered, saw a slight pay boost for support staff and secretaries and will keep their health insurance plan, though they will have to pay a little more for it.
The union had sought a three-year contract but agreed to four years.
Teachers will get raises of 2 percent during the first year of the pact, 3 percent the second year and at least 1.7 percent and no more than 3 percent during the third and fourth years, with a half-percent bonus in the third year, union co-president Laura Anzelmo said.
Anzelmo said a compromise was reached on the largest stumbling block during the eight-day teachers strike that began Oct. 2 — how many days lost to the strike will be made up. The board had threatened to not make up any days but relented and agreed to make up six of them, she said.
“I’d rather work eight days,” Anzelmo said. “That’s why they call it negotiation. Did we get everything we wanted? No. But we did work hard to get some things important to us.”
Union co-president Mariellen Newquist said the school board is “taking students out (of class) for two days in wanting us to be docked two days (pay).”
Asked which side came out the winner in the contract that runs through June 2016, Anzelmo said, “I don’t think there’s a winner when there’s a strike. Both sides have to make concessions.”
Under the new contract, teachers will see slight increases in how much they pay for medical insurance over the four years but will still have access to PPO and HMO plans in addition to a new health savings account.
The union also sought a $1-per-hour raise for teacher aides and secretaries. The board initially offered an hourly increase of 25 cents and agreed to 75 cents.
Some bonuses for teachers are possible in the last three years of the contract if students meet goals as determined by reading and math test scores. The union plans to discuss assessment standards in future talks with District 124 Supt. Robert Machak.
“We want to help create a parameter of what is considered growth,” Newquist said. “As much as we did not want to tie salary to merit pay and test scores, in the end we had to do our best to come up with something that we thought our membership could live with and ratify in order to get our kids back in school. That was our No. 1 concern.”
Board members and Machak declined comment Wednesday night about the contract or its details, saying it still must be finalized by the board’s attorney.
Board member Beth Amado cast the lone dissenting vote. Saying her vote was “in no way a reflection on the teachers,” Amado said she had to oppose the contract because of a projected budget deficit of $1.2 million this school year.
She said it would be “fiscally irresponsible to approve a contract the district cannot afford” and that is “not in the best interest” of taxpayers.
Anzelmo didn’t put much stock in Amado’s comments.
“Well, the last five years they have always claimed they’ll have a deficit, and they have not had one yet. Come back in a year, and let’s see if we have a deficit,” Anzelmo said.
Before the vote was taken, two parents lambasted the board for the bitter contract negotiations.
“I wanted to tell you how immensely disappointed I was in the board during the negotiations these last two weeks,” Liz Larmon said. “Is it not fiscally responsible to budget for cost-of-living raises for your employees, ever-changing insurance costs and retirement benefits?”
Joan Each Rowan said she was “mortified” by the school board’s behavior before and during the strike and told board members “shame on you,” which resulted in loud applause from parents and teachers at the meeting at Central Junior High School.
Parent Chuck Radgowski, however, ripped the teachers, saying there are plenty of unemployed people ready to take their place. He noted he has to work four jobs to make ends meet.
“Don’t cry to me about how expensive the health insurance is,” he said.